An ‘incident in a hotel room’ becomes a life-changing event for Tom Crowe, a rising star of the Labour Party whose past, present and future form the basis of
The seeds of revolution are there but the shock wave is in the distance.
One evening Tom goes to the room of a happily married, well-established senior member of the Party. Something, presumably of a sexual nature, happens. Tom leaves the room, checks out of the hotel in the early hours of the morning and drives to Oxford. The hotel receptionist makes no comment leaving the two men as the only people knowing what took place. The details are never supplied, even in the questioning that follows. In which case why he behaves in this way and why it has the potential to destroy his career is a mystery that niggles throughout the play.
In Oxford, where he graduated, he turns to Lisa, a party press officer, spin-doctor character who has the task of managing this mysterious mess. Her position on the matter also has a certain mystique to it. At times she seems to be trying to save Tom and his career, but also appears willing to sacrifice him for the sake of the party and the senior MP. She moves him to a hotel in his home town of Eastbourne where Tom’s radical past opens up.
In ‘God’s waiting room’ and against the advice of Lisa, Tom eventually meets up with Marie, who may have been an early girl-friend, and her banner-hanging activist brother, Chris, his best friend from those early years. There are flashbacks to nights on the South Downs, trapsing along cliff edges, engaging in subversive activity and Tom’s guilt at having let down Chris emerges in sort of sub plot.
The choice of Eastbourne is another oddity. The idea of its being ‘a fractured community on the verge of imploding, besieged by vandalism and rioting’ at any time in its history stretches the imagination beyond the point of credibility. It illustrates yet again that very little in this plot holds together.
It is also hard to imagine William Vasey’s Tom in this context. Everything about his performance exudes a privilege background rather than radical roots; croquet and conservatism rather than sabotage and socialism. Given that the ‘incident’ seems insubstantial, the way he succumbs to the controlling activity of Lisa appears exaggerated. In turn, why she regards it as so momentous is also mystifying. Vicky Winning launches into a stern but also wooden portrayal of this character, struggling to make sense of her role. Cerys Knighton does what she can with the rather unremarkable character of Marie who seems to serve little purpose in the overall scheme of things. Writer, Tim Cook, playing Chris, has a momentary burst of passion in a scene with Tom, but for the most part argues his case rather casually.
Tremors needs a radical rethink if it is ever to become the ‘urgent new play about integrity and the true cost of fighting for what you believe in’ that Tim Cook aspired to write. The seeds of revolution are there but the shock wave is in the distance.